Open Data in MontréalPosted: March 11, 2011
I am interested in all things open, first of all open source, open science and research, and an idea that slowly makes its way, open data. Fortunately, a well-organized group has sprung to life in Montréal to promote this worthwhile idea, Montréal Ouvert, which had its third meeting yesterday evening. Their faq is helpful to clarify the topic. There is simply no reason, apart from privacy and security concerns, for the government, our government, not to share its data openly with the citizens. Moreover, in an era of tight public budgets, with past histories of run-away IT public projects, there is no reason not to tap public ideas and resourcefulness. It is just simply a better way of doing things: instead of the government, or government agencies, trying to guess what the public wants, and taking years and lots of money for brittle applications, why not just let the public experiment, and let a thousand applications bloom!
I did a short introduction to the concept in our course on data management for transportation at Ecole Polytechnique, which I warmly recommend to all transportation students (“program or be programed!“, a topic for another post), and showed the following video:
So, what about Montréal? Well, Montréal is the last of the large Canadian cities without an official policy on open data, and much less a plan for its implementation (but I guess this is not surprising given other city hall practices and in Québec in general). Toronto has one, Vancouver has one, Edmonton has one, Ottawa has one, even Nanaimo has one! This is a shame, and all the more for transportation data and research (Google maintains a list of publicly available GTFS feeds). It is a public scandal that the STM, the Montréal public transit company, provides its transit data free of charge to Google and not to everyone: I am not against Google, there is just no reason not to make it available to everyone else! Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, you can get the smart card data from Transport for London, and smaller cities like Rennes in France have comprehensive open data libraries (see the API that includes the data for their bike-sharing service: how long are we going to wait for BIXI?). The following is an example of visualization of the oyster card data (thanks to the transportationist):
So Montréal, wake up!